On Being Inadequate

It’s easy to feel inadequate at Kenyon. So many people here are some of the most committed, intelligent, creative people I’ve had the privilege of being around. As a first-generation student, going to a college like this was THE goal, but as soon as I got here people were immediately talking about grad school. I had no idea about this whole other school after college; I thought of grad school as the place only a few, select people went to be doctors or lawyers. Why was I trying so hard to graduate from here only to be considered an undergrad?

As my time here continued this feeling of inadequacy only grew. I was drowning in classwork that everyone else seemed to grasp easily and my mental health was hitting an all-time low. As my friends were joining all kinds of student groups and organizations, I was struggling to do the bare minimum. I know for a lot of people here staying busy and overcommitting is actually sometimes their own way of coping with their circumstances and mental health. I, however, tend to have the opposite problem.

I finally felt stable between sophomore and junior year; I had only just figured out my major, but I felt capable and ready to take on a new year. Unfortunately, since I was playing catch up with my credits in my major I barely had time for anything except my reading and assignments. I was doing more work (and more efficiently than ever), but I still felt like I couldn't catch my breath. My friends were now becoming leaders in their student orgs and connecting with the larger community here, while I couldn't imagine taking part in other activities on campus.

Now that I’m a senior, I’m finally feeling a bit more secure. I’m taking a lighter course load to allow more time to work on my thesis, and it feels great to be able to enjoy things sometimes without constantly experiencing anxiety because I might not be able to get my work done on time. Now that I finally have some time to breathe, the last thing I want to do is attempt to take my ever-present social anxiety by the horns and join a ton of new student orgs and projects as a senior. I’m much better at not comparing myself to Kenyon students when I have no idea about their pasts, privileges, and circumstances. And I admire my friends because I know just how hard they've worked and what they’ve gone through. As much as it feels like we’re in this together, it’s still hard not to compare myself to them at times; sometimes, I can’t help but feel inadequate when they debate doing honors when my GPA wasn't high enough to consider it, or when they talk about grad schools and applications when I have next to nothing on my resume. It feels like I owe it to my parents who worked so hard for me to get here to be an outstanding student and secure a great job right out of college. But lately, I’ve been thinking about my sophomore year here, when I was worried I might not graduate at all, and all I wanted in the world was to one day feel stable and happy more often than I feel sad. 

Things aren't always going great, but now I’m closer than ever to graduating and I feel more comfortable with myself than I ever have. So, sure, I may not be a standout student here at Kenyon, but I’m a student who’s so deeply proud of my friends and the work they've put in and I’m so happy to be around so many people that support me so much. I feel secure knowing that the 19-year-old version of myself who never thought I’d make it this far would love to know simply that I’ve made it to senior year and that I finally feel good more days than I feel bad. It’s nearly impossible to feel as talented or as intelligent as others here, but I’m working hard to set standards only for myself and be okay if it takes me a while to reach them anyway. Everyone has very different paths in life and I’m learning to accept that mine doesn't have to be the path that looks the most successful or somehow fulfills all my dreams. I'm simply trying to focus on whatever path works best for me.  


Image Credits: Feature, 1, 2